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  • Writer's pictureSuzy Lycett

Arsenal Women's journey to selling out the Emirates

Updated: May 4, 2023

It's official. We are massive. Arsenal Women sold out the Emirates Stadium for their UEFA Women's Champions League (UWCL) semi-final versus Wolfsburg. Over 60,000 tickets sold. It's a first for Arsenal Women and smashes its previous ticket sale record of just over 53,000. And the final attendance was phenomenal too - but I'll get to that.

During the Euros 2022, women's football achieved record-breaking attendance figures.

Stadiums sold out across the board. The final broke the attendance record for a Euros Final - men's or women's - at Wembley Stadium, with 87,192 fans.

Post-Euros, the demand was still there in the immediate aftermath, with England fans basking in the glory of their Lionesses.

The England versus USA game in October 2022 sold out in mere hours. Queue times were excruciatingly long - with more than 45,000 people waiting their turn for hours on end.

Then, the first ever Women's Finalissima in April 2023 at Wembley - yet another sell out. Demand was showing no sign of abating, at the national level.

It was only a matter of time before club women's teams started to sell out their club's main stadiums too.

The most successful football team in the Barclay’s FA Women’s Super League continues to pave the way.

Yes, we have the backing of a club that has a very passionate and global fanbase. But there was never any guarantee that this support and post-Euros popularity would carry over into the women's team.

After the Euros, breaths were held in anticipation of the growth to come.

Would heightened demand continue beyond the final whistle that elevated the Lionesses to European Champions? The ticket sales for the USA game answer that question pretty emphatically.

But would that demand carry over into club football? Would that growth be sustainable? It seems the answer to that is a resounding "yes".

Arsenal Women's games at Meadow Park are now frequently sold out.

With a capacity of 4,500, that's unsurprising. Our fanbase is becoming ever louder and more passionate - and bigger too. Season tickets sold out for the first time for this season.

4,500 will soon become a problem figure that I anticipate will limit the women's team's growth, unless something can be done in the near future.

Arsenal's WSL games at Emirates have done well too, each hitting attendances of over 40,000. Mid-week UWCL games at Emirates have had smaller crowds, at around the 6,000 mark - but still respectable.

That is, until the UWCL quarter finals. Over 21,000 vocal fans chanting and cheering the team to victory on a rainy Wednesday evening in March 2023.

Although the optics of a full stadium are fantastic for the women's game, Arsenal recognised that giving tickets away for free isn't a legitimate, long-term strategy.

The club needed to sell tickets if it wanted to build an economically-viable future for the women's team.

Back in September, Arsenal's Head Coach, Jonas Eidevall, commented on the importance of this, after Arsenal broke the WSL attendance and sales record versus Spurs with a crowd of 47,367.

"I think [selling tickets] is so important, because then we don't leave things to chance and you are really trying to build the game and to increase the revenues and increase the sporting success," Jonas said.

Carla Ward, take note.

With that initial record crowd versus Spurs in hand, Arsenal seemed ever more likely to sell out Emirates Stadium.

Chelsea in their semi-final versus Barcelona broke the record for a UWCL attendance in England with 27,697 fans. Spoiler alert - this attendance record would more than double but a few days later.

The success of Arsenal Women has had a massive impact in setting up a record crowd. But it was the manner of the team's success too.

The team has managed to surpass all expectations - based on the number of injuries that it has - and now the final of the Champions League was potentially a mere 90-minutes away.

Arsenal released tickets almost as the final whistle blew when the team beat Bayern Munich in the quarter finals.

That foresight proved lucrative. Within the hour, the halfway line blocks were sold out. Over the following weeks, strong sales continued.

The club's marketing team has of course put in a huge amount of legwork to make this possible. From social media and tube ads, to getting all the players involved to promote the game through videos - each increasingly more amusing - Arsenal admin has been on fire throughout. Everyone behind the scenes deserves a lot of credit.

After the draw against Wolfsburg in the semi-final away leg, the team's bravery and spirit - battling back from a 2-0 deficit in the first leg to draw level at 2 all - proved enough to entice even the most transient of fans to the game. Ticket sales spiked once more.

Leah Williamson got in on the action - and not for the first time. With a Euros medal around her neck, she previously demanded more people come to games.

This time, she promised to release a video if a sell out was announced. Another mini spike in sales.

Selling out the Emirates was now no longer an "if", but a "when".

The days leading up to the sell out were entertaining - for me at least. Twitter was abuzz with the pending news. Posting screenshots of how ticket sales were progressing became an hourly passtime for many - including myself.

On the Saturday before the game, I got back from playing tennis and decided to check where we were at. I counted 9 tickets to go. I spent the next hour fervently refreshing my screen, until the moment it was official.

Arsenal versus Wolfsburg was sold out.

It's an incredible feeling to know that this club had achieved such massive growth in the space of a few short years.

As both Katie McCabe and Lia Walti referenced in their promotional videos, to encourage ticket sales, when they signed for Arsenal, "crowds" of a couple of hundred people were considered strong.

Now, 60,704 is the new sales number to beat. Arsenal women can't go any higher on this front. Emirates would need to add seats or sections for it to be possible.

When the day of the game arrived, the crowd didn't disappoint: 60,063 in attendance.

As close to a full house as we could have ever hoped for. This team broke the attendance record of 53,000 set by Dick Kerr Ladies in 1920 for a women's club football game in England.

The result was far from what we wanted. An excruciating last-minute conceded goal that smothered our hopes in an instant.

Yet the players can walk away with their heads held high.

They achieved more than they should have done with the adversity they've faced. And they made history. Everyone in attendance was a part of history on that day. For that - and for many other reasons - the Arsenal have a lot to be proud of.

But, long-term, the next step is consistency.

More games at Emirates. More sell outs. More chances for people to come to games and support this amazing team as they continue to fight and entertain and inspire.

More ticket sales to help this club continue to grow and build, and reinvest in facilities, staff members, players.

More opportunities to keep this club and this team at the forefront of the game - as it is today and as it always will be.

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